It often seems to be the case that you exist to serve your leader. They urge and cajole you to do more and to do better, seemingly with no other motive than to further their own career and make them look good. Their urgings seldom seem to come attached with any degree of support to help you achieve the ever higher targets they set you, but make no mistake, making those targets aren’t at all optional.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be like that, and the notion of servant leadership has gradually made its way towards the mainstream after it was popularly coined back in 1970 by Robert Greenleaf.
It’s easy to see why the concept is an attractive one, as it sees us go to work in an environment and culture where the bosses gladly put our needs ahead of their own. A recent study, published in the Academy of Management Journal, highlights how such an environment creates big improvements in areas such as job performance, employee turnover and even customer satisfaction.
The Benefits of Servant Leadership
The study revealed that employees felt more valued, which in turn resulted in greater performances when their managers successfully created a culture of caring, trust and cooperation.
"The best business leadership style is far from, ’Do this. Don’t do that.’ A servant leader looks and sounds a lot more like, ’Is there anything I can do to help you?’ Or, ’Let me help you....’ Or, ’What do you need to...?’ This approach helps employees reach their full potential," the authors say.
This often manifests itself in unabashed admiration for our boss, which in turn tends to translate into a level of teamwork, dedication and loyalty to the organisation and its customers that isn’t seen in more dictatorial environments, with the style of leadership trickling down throughout the workforce.
"It’s contagious. The employees see their leaders as role models and often mimic those qualities, creating a culture of servant leadership. This serving culture drives the effectiveness of the business as a whole," the researchers say.
The focus of the study was the Jason’s Deli restaurant chain and included nearly 1,000 employees across over 70 of the brands restaurants. Data came in the form of surveys that were completed by employees, managers, customers and official data from the company’s records.
The paper revealed a number of key benefits from deploying a servant leadership style. For example, there was a 6 percent boost in job performance, an 8 percent rise in customer service quality and a reduction of 50 percent in job turnover.
It underlines the value of showing employees that if you care for their welfare you get results. Indeed, managers at Jason’s Deli themselves revealed how pleased they were with the findings and how they intend to use the findings from the study in further improving their own workplace culture.
With employees increasingly seen as the key asset in any workplace, it’s an approach that is really too obvious not to adopt.
See Also: What Can Transformers Teach Us About Leadership?
I’d love to hear your own experiences of servant leadership. Would you regard your own boss as adopting this style of leadership? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.